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New Project: Fantasy Wild West Supplement for S&W

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I stumbled across Gunsmoke & Goblins for Microlite20 last week. It's been out since last August and I'm not sure how I missed it. It's fantasy wild west setting for Microlite20. Take the "Wild West" and plop it down in a fantasy world (e.g. goblins replace Indians). It sounds silly until you read the four pages of rules/setting.

Having seen this setting, I decided to do something like this as a supplement for Swords & Wizardry -- after checking with folks on the S&W forum to see if there was any interest. I think this setting would work much better in a 0e variant than it does in 3e variant. Everything in Gunsmoke and Goblins except for a few names is OGL content, so I can borrow as much as I like.

I'll be posting about development on the Swords & Wizardry message board. However, to whet your appetite, here is a brief description of the tentative "Fantasy Wild West" classes:

FRONTIERSMAN -- a fighter who is expert in wilderness survival. He can use light and medium melee weapons, bows, crossbows, and all firearms.

GUNSLINGER -- a fighter who is expert with firearms. He can use light and medium melee weapons and all firearms. He can use a pistol in each hand and can quick-draw.

GADGETEERS -- a techno based off the magic user. He makes discoveries (use the MU spell chart). A discovery is just a spell of the appropriate level. He can't cast his discoveries, but he can turn them into weird science gadgets by spending time and money. For example the 1st level discovery "magic missile" could be turned into a "Tracking Electro-Rifle" -- a rifle that shoots a pulse of energy that always hits what it is aimed at. These items are so complex that only the Gadgeteer who made them or someone who successfully figures a device out can use it. Aside from their gadgets, they can only use light melee weapons, crossbows, and one firearm of their choice.

PRESTIDIGITATOR -- an illusionist like class. Aside from their magic they can use light melee weapons and short range pistols.

PREACHER -- a cleric of the one true Sun God. They can use light melee weapons, whips, and pistols. They are immune to the effects of spirits of the night, but their presence angers those spirits decreasing the chance that animal blood will placate them enough for others to sleep soundly.

RUFFIAN -- a fighter who can fight with anything that comes to hand. They can use all melee weapons and revolvers. They are often thieves and bandits.

SHAMAN -- a cleric of the Old Gods (or one of them) who interacts with the spirit world. They can use Druid Spells, light and medium melee weapons, bows and crossbows, one firearm of their choice. The can perform a brief ritual at night that will always appease the spirits of the night (even without animal blood), allowing themselves and those they are with to get a sound sleep in the open. If a Preacher is with their party, the ritual requires animal blood and is not automatically successful, although the chance of success is not reduced because of Preacher.

Finally, here is a description of the spirits of the night. Without this, some of the above description will not be very clear.

Spirits of the Night: In the Fantasy Wild West, the spirits of intelligent beings who die and are not buried with the full rites of the Sun God walk the world at night. They don't bother people in permanent, inhabited structures but those who camp out or otherwise spend a night in the wilds hear screams, gibbering, and have horrible dreams. This prevents them from getting the full benefit of a night's sleep. These spirits can be appeased by the blood of a small animal -- generally people traveling kill a small animal for their supper and leave the blood for the spirits. Preachers tend to consider this an superstitious ritual performed by those who lack faith in the Sun God -- the fact that Preachers are immune to the spirits reinforces this belief.

For Gold & Glory Revisited

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As I have switched my personal rules to Swords & Wizardry, I am revisiting my ideas for For Gold and Glory. Instead of being a personalized version of Microlite74, it is going to be an "Old School" variant of Microlite20. Unlike Microlite74 which was designed to recreate "Original D&D" in M20, For Gold and Glory will be a variant of D&D 3.x with the following major design goals:

* to be usable with most 3.x materials (just as M20 is)
* to have an old school feel in play
* to make fighters as interesting as other classes in 3.x

Some of the features that will set For Gold & Glory apart from other M20 variants:

* Separation of wounds (which heal slowly and make activity harder) and hit points which recover quickly without much increase in combat complexity.
* No skill lists.
* Fighters get combat stunts which should help keep them interesting to play at all levels
* Characters can have a player defined background which gives the character additional areas of expertise. GMs can give characters additional backgrounds during play to simulate things like D20 prestige classes.
* Use D20 spell and monster lists.

The first draft of For Gold and Glory should be ready soon. Like Microlite74, For Gold & Glory will be a free download.

Fight On! #4 Now Available in PDF

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Issue 4 of Fight On! is now available from Lulu in PDF as well as in print. The PDF release is especially important for old school players who live outside the US. They can now get a copy of the current issue without paying Lulu's outrageous non-US postage rates. (Don't get me wrong, postage from the US to anywhere else is higher than it should be, but Lulu seems to charge even more.) This issue of Fight On! is dedicated to Dave Hargrave and features over 120 pages of old school goodness.

Why Arn has Gates

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My Empire of Arn campaign world is full of gates. Gates leading to other planes, others planets, other universes. For most of Arn's life, these gates have lead to other places within my own multiverse. However, that wasn't the reason these gates were originally there. They were there so players could bring their characters from other campaigns into and out of my Arn campaign.

While moving characters from one GM's campaign to another is uncommon today, it was relatively common in some parts of the country in the mid to late 1970s. By 1980, the practice had already started to die out, as Lee Gold (editor of the rpg APA Alarums & Excursions since 1975 or so) laments to a writer of in an article in the August 1980 issue of New West magazine, "It's Only A Game...Or Is It?":

...Gold sees communication between the different games systems gradually breaking down, as the increasing differentiation of rules, worlds and cultures leads to incompatibility. "San Francisco runs 'high entropy' worlds - lots of magic and power; Long Beach and Boston, 'low entropy'. RuneQuest is talking strike rank; D&D is talking dexterity rolls. They can't talk to each other. It's like the Tower of Babel," she says. Characters can no longer adventure freely from one world to another, as they could in the early, simpler days of FRP, from Arduin to Mistigar, for instance, without severe culture shock. "The trend," Gold says with the regret one feels for the collapse of Camelot's Round Table, "is to closed-world campaigns.
As far as I can tell, this style of play started in California and spread to areas of the country with a lot of fannish contact with California. I heard of it from running into someone who played in Deanna Sue White Mistigar campaign at a SF convention. I thought it was a wonderful idea and bought it back to first my college gaming groups and then to groups I gamed with in the San Antonio area. This is when Arn got all its gates.

Moving characters back and forth between campaigns wasn't all that hard back then. The rules for D&D and AD&D were fairly simple. Characters with weird powers or magical treasure that was too powerful for the world their were visiting just discovered that their items or powers did not work as well in the campaign world they were visiting because "its natural laws were different." Conversely, a character who was too weak for a high-powered campaign world he was visiting might discover that his Mace +1 functioned as a Mace +3, +5 vs Undead in that high-powered world due to, again, the fact that "its natural laws were different."

Sadly, with the proliferation of different rule-sets and the move to more story-centered campaigns, the practice of players being able to move their characters from one DM's campaign to another had pretty much died out by the mid-1980s. By then, the gates on Arn mainly brought NPCs and monsters from other parts of the my own multiverse instead of visiting PCs. But every once in a while, the gates fill their original purpose and bring in a PC from another campaign for a visit -- usually the character for a friend from across the country visiting one of my regular players for a week or two. For the last 10-15 years, it always surprises people that I will allow this. Many of the players who have benefited from Arn's gates in the last 15 years, have never heard of another GM who will allow this. This always saddens me and makes me nostalgic for the time when travel between campaigns was common.

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh, my friend, we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same...

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days
Oh, yes, those were the days

Hit Points and Body Points for Swords & Wizardry

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This post is the first of a series of house rule posts for the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules. (S&W is a free 0e retroclone.) These posts are draft conversions of some of the house rules I've used in my campaigns for many years to Swords & Wizardry. Final versions of these rules will eventually be collected into a supplement for S&W that I can give my players. Comments are welcome. I realize that many people will hate one of more of my house rules for one reason or another. That's fine by me, but will not stop me from using them as in their original forms, most have worked well in my campaigns for many years.

Hit Points and Body Points
Replace the standard character damage and healing system with the following:

Hit Points (HP) are rolled as normal for the character’s race and class. If Hit Points reach 0, the character is unconscious and begins to take severe physical injury. Further damage directly reduces Body Points.

Body Points (BP) are equal to his CON. If Body Points reach 0, the character is dead. Each two points of body damage a character has gives a -1 to all rolls.

Critical Hits: Natural attack roll of 20 (that would otherwise hit) is automatically a critical doing maximum damage and doing a number of body points damage equal to the number of damage dice rolled (normally 1). Most monsters do not have body points, so a critical hit will do maximum damage plus a normal damage roll to them and cause them to lose their next attack. Optional: Fighters of level 11 to 20 critical hit on a natural attack roll of 19 or 20 (that would otherwise hit). Fighters of level 21 or higher critical hit on a natural attack roll of 18, 19 or 20 (that would otherwise hit).

Recovering Hit Points: All characters recover all hit points after six hours of total rest (aka sleep). If a character has lost Body Points due to wounds, only 50% of total hit points lost are recovered per six hours of rest.

Healing Body Point Damage: Body points lost recover at a rate equal to the character’s (CON-10)/4, round up (minimum of 1 point recovered) per full day of rest. If a character has taken body damage, but has more than 50% of his Body Point left performs more than very light activity or careful travel during a day, he has a 50% chance of losing an additional body point. If a character has taken body damage and has 50% or less of his Body Points left does anything other that rest quietly in bed during a day, he has a 50% chance of losing an additional body point.

Healing Magic: Cure spells or their equivalent no longer restore hit points to characters (but continue to do so for creatures who only have hit points). A Cure Light Wounds (or equivalent) will cure 1d2+1 Body Points. A Cure Serious Wounds (or equivalent) will cure 3d2+3 Body Points. In either case, 1 point will be cured per 10 minutes of rest after the spell is cast (up to the maximum the spell will cure), if the rest in interrupted any remaining points of healing are lost.

Second Wind (Optional): Once per day, characters may regain 20% of their total hit points (round up) by resting in a safe place for an hour while eating a meal. This amount is reduced by 2 hp per point of body damage (to a minimum of 0 hp recovered).

Monster Body Points (Optional): If the GM does not mind the added complexity, monsters may have Body Points as well. A monster’s Body Points are equal to twice the number of hit dice the monster has.

Notes for the GM: This character damage and healing system is an extension of relatively common house rule allowing characters to not die at zero hit points but only when their reach a negative hit point total equal to their CON attribute. It formalizes this system and makes a clear distinction between damage that recovers quickly (hit points) and major physical damage that not only recovers slowly (body points). This system also provides an easy method for major physical damage to affect the character’s abilities without bogging down the game with hit locations and/or other complex systems. Hit points become “fatigue” (and minor “just a flesh wound” physical damage) that can be recovered with a good night’s sleep – if one is otherwise healthy. Body points represent actual major physical damage that heals slowly, often prevents the character from functioning at his best, and can get worse if ignored instead of treated. Note: Giving standard monsters body points does not really add much to the game except additional recordkeeping for the GM. The optional rule giving monsters body points is not really recommended.

Ancient Auguries Updated


A new version of Ancient Auguries has replaced the old. This is a very minor typo update with three changes:

* Microlite74 was typoed in the Header -- Fixed.
* The word "making" was left out of the Smite Clerical power description twice. The sentences still make sense without the word, but are much clearer with it.
* The Hit Point formula in the Hit Points and Body Points section was the one from Microlite20 (STR + 1d6), This has been corrected to the M74 formula (6 + 1d6).

The third change is the only one that actually changes rules.

Microlite74 is "Finished"

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With the release of Ancient Auguries today, I'm happy to announce that the Microlite74 project is essentially finished. At least it is on my end. While I'm sure there will be another typo correction release late this year and I will be happy to plug or even host your M74-based projects, the game is finished.

Really. With Microlite74 Version 2.0, I have Microlite74 about as close as I can get it to that 1974 edition of the world's most popular fantasy RPG and still be Microlite20-based. The supplement I released today adds a number of completely optional rules -- some pleasing to old school gamers and some that will please 3.x fans -- and shows just how easy M74 is to modify to fix any problems you or your group might have with the game. There's no need for a constant stream of upgrades and new editions from me. In addition to the typo correction update mentioned above, I'll probably update the information on retro-clone is the back once or twice as year so that it stays current and useful to new players, but those will be new "printings" -- not new editions.

Microlite74 is YOUR game now. I can't wait to hear and see what you do with it. Have a blast with it!

Ancient Auguries: A Microlite74 Version 2.0 Supplement Released

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Ancient Auguries has four pages of completely optional rules that can be used with Microlite74 Version 2.0. My intent in writing this supplement was both to provide some interesting optional rule sections and to show how flexible and easy to modify the Microlite74 rules really are. Each section of rules in Ancient Auguries is independent and can can be used or ignored at the GM's option. Optional rule sections include:

  • The Specialist class

  • Special abilities for fighters, magic-users, and clerics

  • A Skills system

  • Ritual Magic and Metamagic

  • Vancian magic in two forms, memorized spells and a full fire-and-forget magic system

  • Combat variants: Simple and complex combat stunts, no initiative rolls, overwhelming opponents

  • Hit points and body points -- a replacement damage and healing system
Ancient Auguries is a 5 page pdf file. It's a free download (about 105K) and is available from the Microlite74 page of the RetroRoleplaying.com website.

Swords & Wizardry Core Rules "Revision" Now Available

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Matt Finch and crew have been hard at work on a slightly revised second printing of the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules. The main upgrades are more artwork and better layout, but some corrections and even some additional material have been added. You can find a free pdf download here and printed copies for purchase here: Softcover or Hardcover. The first printing had 90+ pages, the second has 116 and looks really great.

D&D 4e Without Minis and Grids

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A friend of mine whose player group really wants to try 4e asked me if I had seen any rules or even ideas for playing 4e without minis and without grids. He's willing to run some 4e for his players provided that he doesn't have to use minis and battlemats. After a couple of hours hunting around on the web, I was able to find a lot of people arguing that it could not be done without completely nerfing the game for those character classes whose powers depend on exact positioning and moving other characters/monsters around. However, I did find a handful of forum threads and one wiki discussing how to play 4e with narrative style combat instead of skirmish minis style combat.

Just in case there are others interested, I'm listing the links I found. I can't comment on the ideas presented in them, however, as 4e just isn't my thing.

Message Board Threads:

4e rules will make some games much harder to run (Post 25 is by Mike Mearls saying it is possible to run 4e without minis.)

Scared about squares

Boardless combat rules

Help me! I don't like 5-foot grids!...

No Miniatures, Gridless System


Sally 4th: The Basics

4E Classic Revisited

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A few days ago I posted about Necromancer Games plans to do a 4E Classic -- trying to bring some old school goodness to 4E. I was skeptical about their ability to pull this off. I still am skeptical as 4E seems to have deliberately removed almost everything "old school" from the game. However, I've been reading the 4E Classic board at the Necromancer Games message board and I am very impressed with the level of discussion. It is one of the only places I've found on the Internet where old school D&D grognards and 4e players and fans seem to be able to discuss their different opinions of how things should be in a civilized manner -- that is with the focus on the issues instead of on silly personal attacks or disinformation/FUD about what various editions were actually like. My compliments to the folks running Necromancer Games and the board's moderation staff for pulling this off.

In Memoriam: E. Gary Gygax

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It's hard to believe that it has been a year now. While I release Microlite74 Version 2.0 today in honor of Gary, I've decided that's not enough. The best way I can think of to honor Gary is with an example of game play from back in the 1970s: a group of players first encounter with an iconic Gygaxian monster: The Rust Monster.

One thing you have to know to understand this story is that there were no descriptions or pictures of a rust monster in the OD&D books. Just a brief description of what a rust monster did. A weird-looking plastic toy may have inspired this creature, but those of us who didn't play in Gary's campaign did not know this.

A party of low level adventurers had just descended the stairs to the second level of my Pyramid dungeon (what would be known as a smallish megadungeon today). They listened at the door, hearing nothing. So they send a brave, but really not too bright, henchman into check it out. He'd been popping in quiet rooms and coming back out with a quick description of what he saw -- filtered through his not so bright gray matter, of course. He steps into the room and comes back out.

I had a problem. This room held a couple of rust monsters. I needed to describe them but I had no idea what a rust monster looked like. Only that its touch turned metal to rust, which it then ate. Thinking quickly, I decided that rust monsters looked like very large tribbles with lots of tiny short legs (and that they produced an oil that turned metal to rust and that their hair was covered with it and their mouths were on their underside where they could easy feed on the rust on the floor).

He told the party that there were a couple of cute, furry balls with lots of tiny, little legs playing with a suit of rusty armor and purring like kitty-kats. The party had no idea what these things were, but decided they probably were not too dangerous. As there was a door at the other end of the room and no where else to go but back up, they decided to go on in. The rust monsters, busy feeding, ignored them.

The party's paladin -- in his expensive new plate armor -- decided that they might make good pets. He walked over. The closer he got, the more they purred. Happy that they seemed to like him, he tried to pet one of them. His armor started to rust away before his eyes as he did so. Not really thinking to well he pulled his sword and hit the cute furry thing only to have his sword blade rust away. He decided to retreat. When the monsters followed, the whole party decided that they had urgent business on the first level and left the room as fast as possible.

Thereafter, rust monsters were cute furry multi-legged tribble-like creatures in my campaigns, even after we saw an official picture of the rust monster in the 1E Monster Manual. They still are cute furry multi-legged tribble-like creatures to this day. One of the players in this session told the story to Gary at convention years later and said Gary thought cute, furry rust monsters were a hoot. So thank you, Gary, for bringing us rust monsters -- however they are described -- and a wonderful game where we can all run away from them at top speed.

Microlite74 Version 2.0 Now Available

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Microlite Version 2.0 is now available for free download. Over 2000 copies of Microlite74 version 1.1 have been downloaded since its release on October 6th last year. Microlite74 is dedicated to the memory of E. Gary Gygax and Version 2.0, which is even closer to that the very first edition of the world's most popular fantasy roleplaying game he co-authored over 30 years ago, is being released on the first anniversary of his passing.

Microlite74, like its parent game, Microlite20, is a trimmed-down, sub-miniature version of the Primary Fantasy SRD rules that has been designed to be quick and easy to play. The goal of Microlite74, however, is to recreate the style and feel of that very first ("0e") fantasy roleplaying game published back in 1974. If you are at all familiar with any game based on the 3.5 edition of the Primary Fantasy SRD, you will find Microlite74 easy to play and easy to run as a GM, but with an extra helping of "old school" flavor.

While Microlite74 is designed as an introduction to "old school" play for players more familiar with modern rules systems based on the Primary Fantasy SRD, it is a rules-lite OGL based game system that old school grognards – especially those who cut their gamer teeth on "0e" – should find equally enjoyable. It is also easy to modify with your own house rules or rules drawn from your favorite edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game.

The revised and expanded Microlite74 Version 2.0 features many changes and improvements made since the publication of version 1.1 of Microlite74 in 2008, including:

  • The spell and monster lists have been rewritten to make Microlite74 much more compatible with 0e and 0e retro-clones.

  • Many more monsters and a few additional spells are included.

  • Stat, combat, and some other bonuses have been reduced from Microlite20 levels to levels more appropriate for 0e and Microlite74.

  • Optional rules that remove demi-human class and level limits have been added.

  • Spells lists are now alphabetical within each level.

  • Many minor tweaks in wording or rules have been made to correct typos, to improve clarity, or to make GM rules modifications and future expansions easier.
Microlite74 Version 2.0 is available for download from the Microlite74 page of the RetroRoleplaying.com web site. You can download the standard version or the booklet version. The standard version is 10 pages of small print (Microlite20-style) and is a 170K PDF. The booklet version is 20 pages and has larger type, cover pages, public domain art, and is a 2.2 meg PDF. A special digest-sized version will be available in the future. Or you can you can download Microlite74 Version 2.0 directly from these links:

FGU PDFs on Sale Cheap: Old School Goodness for GM's Day


RPGNow is having a huge "GM's Day Sale" running this week (March 2 to March 8) and Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU) has pdfs of their games from the late 1970s and early 1980s on sale. You can pick up a copy of Space Opera or Bushido for $5.99, a copy of Flashing Blades for $4.50, Villains and Vigilantes for $3.36, and more. If you don't have these games -- especially Bushido and V&V -- now is a great time to pick up what appear to be very nice PDF copies at great prices.

Space Opera is a very complex science fiction RPG. It's near the complexity level of Chivalry & Sorcery, which isn't surprising considering the two games have Ed Simbalist as one of their designers. Space Opera is 180 pages of old school goodness. You may never play it, but you'll borrow stuff from it for Classic Traveller. (FGU no longer has the rights to Chivalry & Sorcery, which is a shame as it would probably be on sale too.)

Flashing Blades is a game of swashbuckling adventure in France. It's GDW's En Garde remade into a full RPG. Short rules, but a lot of fun to play, especially for fans of the Three Musketeers.

Bushido is probably the best Japanese Fantasy RPG ever produced. The rules are fairly simple for an FGU RPG, but they are playable and really capture the feel of Samurai Japan, where a character's skill at poetry can be just as important as his swordmanship. If fantasy is your game and you can only buy one FGU game, this is the game to buy.

Villains and Vigilantes is the second edition of the second Superhero RPG published (Superhero 2044 was the first). It is still a great superhero game today. Characters are created randomly so one can start playing without spending hours min-maxing a character in a point-buy system. FGU has a lot of V&V adventures available as well.

There you have it, my list of four FGU gamesystems any old school gamer should consider adding to his or her collection.

4E "Classic"?

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Clark Peterson of Necromancer Games has announced that they are working on a 4E Classic rules set: "a set of alternate content for 4E to replicate the old school way of playing D&D. It will work in conjunction with the 4E PHB." Personally, I have my doubts that they can pull this off, but I expect the process will be interesting as they are creating it in an open manner somewhat like Paizo did with Pathfinder.

Here's more from Clark's post in the new 4E "Classic" board at the Necromancer Games message board:

Here is my plan: I am going to create "Classic 4E": a set of alternate content for 4E to replicate the old school way of playing D&D. It will work in conjunction with the 4E PHB.

It will contain the classic races--elf, dwarf, half-elf, halfling, human, gnome, etc. No dragonborn, no warforged. Now, that said, if you and your DM want to use that content from the PHB you can.

It will contain the classic classes--fighter, ranger, paladin, rogue, cleric, druid, wizard, monk, as well as some 3E favorites such as the barbarian and bard.

It will have some rules changes:

--things will not be tied to the grid, they will be done in feet.
--there will be no more hopping around the grid teleporting, but movement in combat will still be stressed
--the old powers that have to do with things other than combat will make their return
--spell memorization will return in a fun new way
--powers will be more limited for the classes, but more useful. Not every class is a wizard
--alignment returns (optionally)
--buffing is not forbidden anymore. 4E took away buffing spells. I dont mind putting them back.

I want to do this the way Paizo is doing Pathfinder. I want to develop it as a community. I will soon be opening a "4E Classic" forum with a thread for each class and race etc. We can post incremental updates of our rules compiled as a pdf as alpha and beta. The final version will be available as a pdf and perhaps in print as well since people love their printed game books.
While I'm not a 4E fan, I'm going to follow this discussion for a while as I always find it interesting to see what people see as the "old school" way of D&D.